'Fuel poverty fall' welcomed

Josie Clarke

The number of UK households in fuel poverty dropped from 5.5 million in 2009 to 4.75 million in 2010, new figures show.

The fall was mainly due to rising incomes, relatively stable energy prices at the time and reduced energy consumption, according to the 2012 Annual Report on Fuel Poverty released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

Northern Ireland remains the most fuel poor part of the UK, with estimates suggesting 44% of households spend more than 10% of incomes on energy bills.

In Scotland, 28% of the population are fuel poor, Wales is at 26% but England drops to 16%.

The rise in energy prices last year is expected to increase the number of households in fuel poverty again, although the figures will not be published until 2013 and 2014, Decc said.

Projections for England indicated there were likely to be around 3.5 million fuel-poor households in 2011 and 3.9 million in 2012.

Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said: "I am encouraged by the fall in fuel poverty in the period to April 2011, but there is no room for complacency.

"Fuel poverty remains a serious national problem and the Coalition is absolutely committed to tackling it.

"People can still get help with heating and insulation through Warm Front and around two million households will get money off their energy bills this year through the Warm Home Discount scheme.

"However, our ambitious new policies including the Green Deal will go much further.

"The Green Deal will help people pay for home improvements through savings on their energy bills with extra financial help for the most vulnerable."

Consumer groups warned that recent price increases meant the figures were likely to underestimate the current problem.

Consumer Focus director of energy Audrey Gallacher said: "Today's figures show a dip in fuel poverty levels in 2010 reflecting lower energy prices.

"But as the average annual bill has risen by over £150 since then, many more people are now affected.

"It is a major concern that so many people are struggling to afford their energy bills.

"Millions of families, older people and disabled people, living on low incomes, will be facing tough daily decisions on what essentials they cut back on to make ends meet.

"Current Government plans are not sufficient to tackle the scale of this problem.

"This is clearly demonstrated by the more than 50% cut in energy efficiency help for the homes of the poorest households in England when fuel poverty levels are on the rise.

"Part of the reason why consumer bills are rising is to fund measures to make our energy supply cleaner and more secure.

"But our bills also include 'green taxes' which just go straight to the exchequer, not to improve the energy market or to make Britain more energy efficient.

"Some of this extra revenue could go a very long way to plug the funding gap in providing help to those who need it most."

National Energy Action (NEA) chief executive Jenny Saunders said: "Since this statistical analysis was undertaken we have entered a period of profound economic austerity accompanied by continuing increases in domestic gas and electricity prices.

"NEA estimates that additional gas and electricity price increases in 2011 mean that more than five million households in England now face unaffordable energy costs.

"Yet the Government response has been to effectively halve funding for schemes to improve heating and insulation standards in properties occupied by financially disadvantaged households, despite the fact that energy efficiency is the most rational long-term solution to fuel poverty.

"From next year, annual expenditure on these heating and insulation programmes will reduce from the 2010/2011 level of £1.1 billion to around £540 million.

"Clearly this action raises serious doubts about the Government's commitment to the eradication of fuel poverty in England by 2016, as required by the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000.

"This lack of commitment is further evidenced by the withdrawal of all Treasury funding for energy efficiency programmes from next year in contrast to the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which will continue to support fuel-poor households through their own Government-funded programmes."

Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said: "Energy efficiency measures played a significant role in cutting the number of households in fuel poverty in 2010 so it's a disgrace that the current Government has slashed funds for better insulation and heating in low-income households.

"It's a national scandal that rising gas prices and heat-leaking homes have left millions shivering and thousands dying in the cold.

"Ministers must end the fuel poverty crisis with a major drive to fix poorly-insulated homes and shift to clean British energy from water, wind and the sun."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£21000 - £23600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger & Arrears Supervisor

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are an experienced super...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Web Designer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this leading ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss